Jazz Maastricht Promenade: close your eyes and feel it
October 7, 2009 Leave a Comment
Giel Coenen and Appie Weijers are more than music lovers, they are music ambassadors. Their strongest allegiance is to jazz, evidenced effortlessly by their continued dedication to Jazz Maastricht Promenade and their annual contribution to the festival’s event programming and organisational committee. Giel and Appie have done considerably more for promoting jazz and forging links between jazz, funk, hip pop and electronic in Maastricht (and elsewhere) than they modestly told me when I met with them one sunny, Friday Limburg morning.
Both Giel and Appie are experienced jazz fans, great friends and are known, on an occasion, to make music themselves.
Appie Weijers (left) and Giel Coenen (right)
Giel grew up with jazz. Actually, he grew up listening to the formidable Billie Holiday. “Jazz”, Giel explained “is played from the heart” and as Giel walked me though his childhood exposure to the sounds of blues and jazz, he not only talked from the heart, he also talked from his “darmen” (Giel insists that he feels jazz from his guts).
Held over four days (22 – 25 October 2009) Jazz Maastricht Promenade (in its 19th edition) is one of Maastricht’s internationally celebrated spectacles. With 60 venues spread across the city (the open and free stages are at bars, restaurants, three churches and the Derlon Theatre), this year’s jazz festival is, to put in mildly, a headliner. Appie gave me the stats: the festival is expected to be bigger than last year’s both in terms of artists and attendees: 50,000 attended the free events in 2008 and 100,000 are anticipated in 2009.
Future Groove Express
The audience is traditionally local (as are Giel and Appie): Maastrichters, Limburgers, Dutch and Benelux folk but there are an increasing number of international jazz and blues lovers descending on Maastricht each year for the four day event, not to mention the burgeoning number of international artists taking stage. The appeal of the festival is bolstered by this year’s publicity campaign.
The festival features a suite of musicians and Jazz Maastricht Promenade remains keen to promote its home-grown talent. Jazz Maastricht Promenade, despite its annual success and metamorphosis from a local community fair-type event into an internationally recognised jazz extravaganza, receives, to my dismay and disappointment, no national or municipal funding and relies exclusively on sponsorship from local venues.
Jazz Maastricht Promenade team
Thinking outside the box, therefore, is fundamentally a Giel and Appie trait; both embrace jazz-fusion and from a casual glance at this year’s festival line up, there is an eclectic mix of artists and venues. With encouragement to check out the line up, Giel and Appie directed me to just a sample of the festival’s 2009 performers: Mike Roelofs, the winner of the Dutch Competition Award North Sea Jazz, collaborating with other artists will play four sets across Maastricht during the festival; there is Maastricht’s very own Benny & The Amazing 20 Fingers; Adani & Wolf, perhaps better known for their DJ sets, will entertain with a soul, jazz, funk and lounge set; the danceable soul and jazz of New Cool Collective will mix blues, groove and rock; the up-and-coming US jazz star, Michelly Cordova, recommended highly by Appie, will be singing with Vern Waldron, also from the US; and two massive personal artistic highlights, the exceptionally talented band, Lavalu and the guitarist Joep van Leeuwen playing with Gero Körner on church organ (there is nothing more eclectic in my book than a jazz/church organ mix).
Benny and the Amazing 20 Fingers
Mariella Tirotto and the Blues Federation
With Giel’s and Appie’s clear imprint, the line up exudes a blend of music styles interconnecting with a jazz and blues focus. Against this background, the festival is set for jazz-lovers and anyone and everyone interested in experiencing different music styles. Perhaps it is this all-embracing approach to jazz which is part of the festival’s success. It is inherently inclusive and welcoming even of those, like me, whose knowledge of jazz is limited to Frank Sinatra and I can only cheer Giel, Appie and the team for that.
I asked Giel and Appie what makes a memorable Jazz Maastricht Promenade? Is it the sight of new-jazz fans bopping to a saxophone or a trombone? Is it the middle-aged jazz aficionados walking from venue to venue misty-eyed by the music? Or maybe is it just the combination and fusion of jazz with other music styles? For Appie, it’s the mixing of the music genres, for Giel, it’s about “closing your eyes, feeling it and experiencing the subtleties”.
Michelle and Friends
Before leaving, and as Giel inhaled his tenth cigarette during our meeting over coffee (my bet is Giel loves jazz far more than his pack of 20), I asked about the future of Jazz Maastricht Promenade. Giel’s knee-jerk response was a hope that there will in the near future be New Orleans’ bands dotted across Maastricht: picture it, a band in Vrijthof, Markt, perhaps even on St. Servatius Bridge …. Billie Holiday (and I) would smile at that.
By Michael Wells-Greco
Michael Wells-Greco, a solicitor in his former life, now undertaking post-grad studies at the University of Maastricht.
Jazz Maastricht Promenade: sneak preview on 11 October 2009 at Café de Belsj; kick-off concert by New Cool Collective at the Hotel de l’Empereur on 14 October 2009; the festival begins on 22 October 2009. For the complete programme, see: www.jazzmaastricht.com